Saturday, 31 July 2021

Jim Kirkwood "Master Of Dragons" (1991)

Its round two with Jim Kirkwood and sticking to these early releases has unsurprisingly yielded a similar experience to that of Middle-Earth before it. Likely to be Tolkein inspired, or at least adjacent given its title and cover. Master Of Dragons steps into a more obscure realm as the 70s inspired electronica dominates its bolder phases. Unpinning the music with its whirl of psychedelic oscillations, a curious feeling of wandering is born. Less scenic and more personal, the music paints lonely journeys through mind and soul with moments of beauty woven between when its keyboard synths and soft reverbs forge yearning atmospheres of nature in a colorful bloom.

With its two halves both comprised of shifts, twists and phases in their twenty minute stays, its the second half that darkness a little. Percussion is heard for the first time as a steady, simplistic beat hold pace for the brooding of eerie, spacey synths. It breaks through with lively dramatic strings punching and jolting in with a threat, the tension growing yet without crescendo. The song plays itself out on a string of melodies, intertwining, steadily winding down only for deep tom drums to pound and stir up a racy finish that doesn't quite find a crown or peak and thus fades out into obscurity.

Its immensely enjoyable for this listener. At the time I imagine there would of been little interest given the dated electronic tones behind the curb of the 80s and 90s. Yet with nostalgic interest and the awakening of Dungeon Synth to the Likes of Fantasy and Tolkein inspired music, this plays wonderfully like a video game soundtrack, the backing to wild adventures of imagination and thus feels oddly fresh and exciting. Then again many discoveries of old can be like that. Music discovery is always fun but with the added dimension of being able to share them through streaming, I've found this music to be a wonderful addition to the livestream experience.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 29 July 2021

Tyler The Creator "Call Me If You Get Lost" (2021)

Keeping on track with a constant flow of records over the years, this sixth installment in Tyler's evolution feels like a step back from the striking charm of IGOR. Its personal preference but I'd argue the presence of DJ Drama drags this project down a notch or two. With his frequent commentaries, a steady flow of interrupting remarks bark over the musics atmosphere, seemingly disconnected in tone and temperament. At apt times he does indeed reinforces Tyler's words and points but mostly he seems like an obnoxious observer interrupting.

Blemishes aside, Tyler's production is on fire again, bringing cutting edge beats and grooves to his pallet of colorful quirky synths. Drawing from classic Soul and R&B vibes it ends up a flavorful show, rich in variety and some avenues into the dark and grizzly aggressive side of Hip Hop music. It would be hard to argue a favorite niche. Its perhaps the swings from the breezy love struck summer vibes of Sweet, into the funk and crunk of the bass driven groovier Rise that gives its flavors more spice as the record weaves past monotony much to the delight of this listener.

Getting both halves on point its the topicality that goes over my head at times but there is plenty of keen lyrical tales. Reflective themes of past triumphs and contemplating personal change illuminates alongside some of his most baited lyrics with the "Rolls Royce pull up" line on Lumberjack. It and other dives into social political topics come with clever rhymes and food for thought. He seems particularly on point in this regard, especially when in a more casual tone, opening up.

Call Me If You Get Lost also hosts a few guests of notoriety who bring some interesting verses. This paired with its fluid changing of instrumental ideas and DJ Drama's commentaries has the records quality feeling oddly fractured. Its a smooth, fun ride, visiting place to place like a road passing through villages, towns and cities. There is plenty to see and touch but as a whole... it doesn't have that defining piece or magnetism like IGOR did. Ultimately a very cool album brimming with talent and creativity but lacking a little glue? I can't quite land my finger on it.

Rating : 7/10

Friday, 16 July 2021

Malcom Horne "Infinity Volume II" (2021)


 Smooth, sweet and soulful, this secondary installment of Infinity pairs the modern Low-Fi influenced Jazz Hop aesthetic with a classy voice through exuberant musicianship. Malcolm litters these dreamy beats with gushes of emotional expression, always emerging through subtly and captivating fondly as a voice. Each of its twenty seven cuts are rooted in the timely pairing of percussive grooves and jazzy persuasion, foundational to its flushes of warm sunny color that ooze from guitars, synths and the like, giving many of the loops a real sense of unique identity.

Its other edge comes from its backbone of looped beats. Born less of sampling and more of instrumental arrangement, its texture and aesthetic is a consistent dazzle of breezy easiness and soothing reverbs, taking us to an easy space to escape all worries and leave ones mind at ease. With this, more love and care can be heard as little accents and notations arise from multiple instruments to compliment its main direction. M.A.D. is a keen example, its fluster of melody jumps between instruments with the tang of a guitar lick nestled between, the resonance is simply lush.

At a whopping ninety one minutes, Volume II excels at finding its target audience. Where Volume I fumbled in its inconsistencies, II focuses very much on the chilled out and lounge alike styling of its sound, channeling the music into a very streamer friendly lane. As a lone record it one could yearn for a little more progression or evolution to take off for new heights, especially when a swooning guitar solo drops in. Of course restraint is placed with these songs being fitted for smiley backgrounds.

Despite that, Volume II is actually rather engrossing as a lone experience. When paired with an activity, focus arises as the meditative quality of its easy flow and steady pace locks one into a mental groove. My only negative take aways are some of the sudden cut offs, Lemonade a criminal culprit of sapping away the buzz just as that charming lead guitar was wooing away. I'm also left missing a little of the punchier Synth tones heard on the first record. Otherwise its a fine collection of lush songs with a strong human expression some of these other Jazz Hop beats miss out on.

Rating 7/10

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Jay-Z & Linkin Park "Collision Course" (2004)


Delighted by the recent Rap Metal adjacent works of Hackivist, I found myself thinking back to this record, which I had barely paid attention too upon its release. Back then I probably had my mind deep in the world of Extreme Metal and nose turned up... But with age, a renewed fondness for the music of my teens now has me wide eyed getting into this collaboration by two of the industries biggest names of the era.

Born of MTV's Mash Ups show and masterminded by Mike Shinoda, the brief six track Collision Course sounds born of that spirit, the interchanging of instrumentals and accappelas between opposing musicians. As a collaboration its sounds just like that, however the enthusiasm shared between the two camps had Linkin Park and Jaz-Z meeting in the studio to re-record parts of Shinoda's arrangements to ensure quality.

It speaks volumes to the seamless nature, everything aligns sweetly. Crunky percussive kicks and snappy snares give the metallic aggression of the guitars a ground to the Hip Hop persona. Both Chester's moving cleans and raw screams match the Rap instrumentals, Mike's roll as a rapper obviously fits but its mostly Linkin Park who dominate the vibes with their songs taking up most the runtime.

Big Pimping and Izzo stand out as the cuts which hold onto their original beats but the other songs get overridden by the metallic energy when the guitars arrive. Its all fantastic but perhaps my emotional attachments have me reveling in nostalgia from these re-worked bangers. Points Of Authority and One Step Close overload 99 Problems for goosebumps inducing mania as Jay-Z drives the crossover with his raps.

I am ultimately left fascinated by this EP, a commercial peak at the end of an era when my two favorite genres rubbed shoulders. For all the Rap Metal I've adored, missing out on this was a major fumble. I can't get past how wonderful the chemistry is. It feels like an obvious mash up yet that doesn't hold it back where you might expect. Its like bottled lightning, perhaps amplified by my own personal excitement. Given the two toured this together, the accompanying DVD is now mandatory viewing for me.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Turnstile "Turnstile Love Connection" (2021)

 After the release of Time & Space Ive been keenly awaiting another album from this keen Hardcore outfit. This blitz of an EP has got me buzzing now! Baltimore outfit Turnstile give an aged sound renewed youthful excitement, frothing with energy and kicking in subtle influences to character their sound and start apart in the crowd.

Holiday kicks things of with its soft murmuring baseline bursting into a riot of sharp power chord strumming. Its somewhat predictable for this group yet lands like a riot, the hooks of Brendan Yates reeling it in, "Now its a holiday", "I can never feel the cold", "I can sail with no direction". There is so much exuberance being exhorted, exactly what he does best. In the opening and throughout the use of an electronic 808 akin drum kit adds a little bark to the rhythm section. Subtle, yet a texture that gives the music a little of that extra character they bring to many of their Hardcore songs.

No Surprise serves as a dreamy soulful interlude to abridge its Grunge number Mystery, fitted out with a brief noisy solo and curious spacey synths in its intro and outro, that later sounding like a space ship taking off. Title track TLC takes the tone back to the bands roots with a strictly fast, hard Hardcore sound with fiery vocals and gang shouts too. Its mid section brings in electronic toms as the music pivots, an odd choice that once again musters a little oddity. It gets explored again as the track devolves swiftly with an experimental vocal cut to end the brief eight minutes of music.

Turnstile is in a groove, writing keen songs that have the power and charisma of what came before. The use of alternate percussive aesthetics and moments of electronic and vocal experimentation are peculiar on analysis yet to just enjoy the music, it works and flows effortlessly. Something in the temperament of this group just lets it all work. If these are the "weaker" tracks left out from an up and coming album then we are in for a treat! We are probably in for a treat either way...

Rating: 3/10

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Old Sorcery "War Of The Old Kingdom" (2021)


It is my guess that the recent Hand Of Merlin soundtrack left the Finnish musician with inspiration and ideas that have spilled over to this wondrous three track EP. They are somewhat disconnected from one another yet equally fantastical, the thematic moods and drama of the OST had Old Sorcery reaching into new territory. Now clawing it back into the Old Sorcery cannon, a familiar esoteric, foreign and cryptic voice narrates these three adventures, giving them a loosely unifying through line.

Council Of The Battle Sorcerers is an eight minute epic of distant tensions, epics yet to be told in a fantasy realm of gleaming beauty and natural magics. It steadily journeys through majestic scenery, the discernible words of a shadowy, ancient voice ushers in moments of creeping darkness that never outpaces the warm embrace of this lush soundscape. Its adventurous melodies, through many phases, continuously usher in a magical warmness fit for a world of fantastical beings devoid of technology.

Triumphant Eyes ramps up the intensity in a sudden change of direction. The drums of war beckon, tense strings heed the call of battle and a sense of coming destruction broods. Its an animated number of moving parts and scenic magnitude fit for a big screen epic. The drama is flushed aside as our cryptic narrator returns over the sounds of sword and shield clattering on the battlefield. From there though, things steadily unwind and fizzle out for echos of the voice to call again from the ashes.

Echoes In The Stillness is perhaps a crossroads between the two. War drums drive the track forward as its melodies linger between the fantastical and illusive mysterious of this fantasy realm. As the drums pull out it meanders its direction to that recurring voice again, this time a little less potent in direction and theme. Overall this is an impressive release bringing new ideas into the fold but aside its one unifying element, seems a bit disjointed track to track. It is all immensely enjoyable though.

Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Hocico "Broken Empires" (2021)


Ever since Memorias Atrás, Ive always been in the mood for some Hocico. I've found there output to be somewhat stale despite loving their Aggro-Tech sound. Its in smaller doses I tend appreciate their work more. This two track EP with accompanying remixes has been fun! Both offer up hard banging beats and harsh synths to revel in a little cyber goth dystopia. Both songs run through the expectant arrangements, typical build ups and flows but its the aesthetic detail that catches the ear on this outing.

Title track Broken Empires hints at its killer bite early on as dense chunky bass synths ride up against a stiff hi hat on swift repetition. The cymbal is interchanged with that classic 90s House hi hat tone and when the song peaks the two resonate off one another with a relenting energy that's hard to resist. The dark spooky melodies that accompany are decent but its really the labored texture of that bass synth that drives the song along, drifting in and out of intensities with a helping of atmospheric design.

The other song, Lost World, is a production powerhouse of driving density, all the sounds are crammed into gaps between its thick rhythm section of pounding kicks and engulfing bass synth. Its a rather linear push of dance energy fit for the club floor, mostly ebbing and flowing around its main catch while also throwing in a little niche audio gimmick as the shouted words get cut and shuffled into the crowded mix.

The additional cuts of Broken Empires offer some alternate version but with little deviation from the original they add little to whats already been offered. These two songs are tight and well written. I wonder if in the duration of an album they would be lost on me given the mediocrity of Artificial Extinction. Having to focus on just two songs really let me digest and enjoy them! These will be songs to return to.

Rating: 3/10

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Backxwash "I Lie Here Buried With My Rings And My Dresses" (2021)


As a personally highly anticipated record, this one did not disappoint. God Has Nothing To Do With This grabbed my attention with its metallic crossover appeal, uniting the darkness available to Metal with the grittiness of Rap, uniting them with renewed artistry. I was swooned by the grabbing expressions and impressed by Backxwash's frothing flow. Returning a year later with this brief twenty two minute album, she's bottled the evil of the Sabbath inspired predecessor and unleashed it again in a darkly Rap context that flirts with the danger of channeled noise and anger.

As the record plays, it descends. The overall tone gradually lurches into the bowls of hell as drum grooves groan with the pains of its horrorscapes. Driven by deep, gritty and slow baselines, uncomfortable atmospheres are bred from noises that align conventions in an unsettling fashion. Distant screams, distorted voices and gritty Industrial sounds overcast the soft and subtle melodies that have an intentional lack of impact. Its design gives wake to the power of texture and aesthetic which powers the music forth on slabs of filthy, intriguing noise, guided by timely percussive patterns.

The lyrical content is harrowing. Is it the wrenching delivery gushing forth raw pain and hurt? The dark journeys the words walk us through, or the alarming concerns some of these tales turn up? At times its all three as Backxwash walks us through some troubling struggles. The tales of vulnerability, abuse and lack of support around transitioning and drug abuse are all to vivid. There is no cheese to be found, the malevolent tone of the record mirrors the underlying pain and suffering endured. 

The opening sample, purpose of pain is a rather underwhelming start but with reflection of the emotional narrative undertaken, it seems all to fitting that ones emotional pain extended to the wrongs of our environments. Clipping turns up an instrumental production for Blood In The Water on what feels like the "true" intro track. 666 In Luxaxa is an utterly fantastic repurposing of the jovial and spirited singing style one would associate with African music. Its misplacement in this darkness is fascinating. After a string of solo tracks, a slew of guests line for the last six tracks.

So many Hip Hop records feel routine with the roll of features but these collaborations feel so integral, defining the music with their presence. Ada Rock's scream rap hooks on the title track are simply unforgettable, sounding like a demonic entity raging with malice and spite. Wail Of The Banshee takes the win on my favorite Instrumental. Its a bleak and harrowing soundscape of human pain and torture, driven by monotone bass and slow drums that put all the emphasis on its evil, terrorizing aesthetic.

Like last time, I'm left floored, feeling like this album offers so much in its short duration that will continue revealing secrets from its dense textures for time come. Last time there was some uplift and reprise to be found in conclusion but this time we burn to ashes and ride out on a drive of speed and momentum as the music refuses to relent from its plunge into the abandon. Whats both beautiful yet glum is the dark attachment to reality. Much of the lyrics here are truly troubling.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Foreign Objects "Galactic Prey" (2015)


Nostalgic adventures to bands of years gone past often yield surprises! Not only did I learn of The Undiscovered Numbers & Colors nine years prior to Universal Culture Shock but also this one, Galactic Prey, released eleven years on after reuniting as a band. Its been rather quiet since then and perhaps we can expect the next installment to come a half decade on, given their timely track record! With this in mind, they could easily be forgiven for any transformation in identity time has brought with it.

And that shift in tone is obvious from the get go. Initially finding myself stiff to the change, familiarity showed it is the character and spirit that excels here. The Technical Death Metal aspect of old feels steered more to an Arena Metal energy akin to Avenged Sevenfold. The color once heard bleeding from the guitars gets a dazzling new direction fit for a big stage and summer festivals. There is much passion in Deron Miller and newly on-boarded Kenneth Hunter's presence. The duo's vocals soar as a focal point, alongside blazing guitar solos that routinely step into the limelight. It is a trying chemistry, honest and sincere yet always slightly off note.

As one to not digest lyrics well, it really felt like the words were being thrust forth with a grand sense of theme. Wrapped around it lively instrumentation built a vivid landscape of color and aggression woven with a captivating spirit. From here many ambitious experiments blossomed and charmed with vocal effects and other manipulations creating some wonderful moments beyond the normal pallet of sounds. Saman Ali plays a wonderful roll with the keyboards, often subtle with aesthetics and timely with inflections of melody, his performance feels possibly under utilized as the electronic and symphonic aspects were class when in focus

When there record fumbles is in production. With a budget of thirteen grand, the fidelity is demo like, competent and punchy but unbalanced and frequenting audio clashes the snappy music pushes through. It does blemish a lot of the music and does not do it justice. The album's title track is also written by a different musician, Jonathan Masi. Its main riff feels like a rehash of an old Foreign Objects song, which is rather akin to the CKY sound, which this record has quite a few flushes with. Its definitely a good thing. Ultimately I'm left feeling like this would of been an utterly engrossing album under better guidance and direction because the music itself always sounds paces better than its muddied, crowded aesthetic.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 2 July 2021

Hacktivist "Hyperdialect" (2021)


 Brash, boisterous and bold, front men Jermaine Hurley and Jot Maxi define this record with a stiff, biting presence as two angered individuals pushing through modern madness. A sharp gritty street dialect and vicious, snarky raps have them foaming at the mouth, deflecting hate, affirming their status and tunneling into anti-establishment sentiments on rotation. As a hybrid of Djent Metal and Grime you could call Rap Metal, nothing like Limp Bizkit of course, its ultimately this duo that give Hacktivist a distinction in the modern Metal scene. Five years on from Outside The Box the group sound sharpened up alongside a lineup change with Ben Marvin being replaced.

Stripped down and reconstructed, the metallic elements of the guitars often delve into the simpler forms as big slabs of chunky low end noise slug out poly grooves with an Industrial menace. Reinforced by slick drums popping punchy snappy patterns, its modern clarity creates quite the sterile and lifeless fest of filthy noise that taps into the simplicity of rhythm as it pounds away its chugging noises. Weaving in some synth elements and Industrial sound design, the alienated sound feels like a unique match for the dystopian anger of the duo sharing the limelight with the mic.

Despite some quite obvious ideas in aesthetics, the band pull together these elements to make some fantastic songs, avoiding some pitfalls of breakdown riffs and the atypical with more fleshed out sounds and well written songs. Lyrically things can be a little patchy on the thematic front as some of the political lyrics feel somewhat buzz wordy and over simplified. When on the same wavelength with the instrumentals the energy is fiery as these sharp teethed rhymes hit with anger and occasionally spark a note with a couple of great hooks across its eleven tracks.

Its opening song Anti-Emcees leans a little heavy on the one word rhyme scheme. Its an odd opening choice, sets a different tone for whats to come. As the album plays the distance between Grime and Metal disappears, the two melding into a chemistry that will ultimately appeal more to Metalheads who are partial to Grime than the other way around. Given this crossover genre has offered little since the meteoric craze around the millennium, Hacktivist show there is still room to be explored however with the knack to write a killer song like the bands before them, it could be something special but for now they are putting out some well housed tunes within their limits!

Rating: 7/10